The Stakes Are High

The Stakes Are High Trail Etiquette

Each year, mountain bikers are spending more time in the air than ever before.

The advent of the modern flow trail, with its manicured, machine-sculpted perfection, has catapulted us into a new era of high-speed progression. Advanced trailbuilding techniques allow for berms that border on wallrides, ricocheting us from one banked turn to another like they’re the flippers of a pinball machine. Our understanding of jumps has evolved to a space where science meets art, resulting in tables and transitions that squeeze every ounce of speed from what gravity offers— often without the need to pedal.

At the same time, quantum leaps in bike geometry and suspension technology have changed the way many of us read terrain. Obstacles are now opportunities, with rocks, roots and even the slightest bumps on a trail serving as launchpads to airborne freedom. Clever preloading of our suspension is sling-shotting us farther and higher, and a new generation of riders is, arguably, milking as much time in the air as it is on the ground.

All these factors have made the average ride much more predictable and, in many respects, much safer. But with our overall increase in velocity—and our tendency to hurtle through space more often—the consequences can be greater when things go wrong. And with more people mountain biking than ever before, many progressive trails have become congested with punters of staggeringly different skill levels and experience, often making your fellow rider the biggest potential threat to your own safety.

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